Nearly 20 times, Jesus used the idiom “Follow me” to indicate the invitation to discipleship. Peter and Andrew were by the shores of Galilee tending to their nets when the call rang out and “straightway” they left their nets and followed him (Matt. 4:20). Others, such as Levi, left the receipt of custom and followed Jesus (Matt. 9:9), and Philip left his city to follow as well (John 1:43). The call of discipleship will always provoke a physical reaction to indicate the invitation was accepted. To follow means obedience to an instructor’s leadership and the process by which he trains an individual. The first characteristic of a disciple is the single-minded obedience to the instructors teaching.
The phrase “Follow me” is indicative of the relationship shared between a leader and a subordinate. Sergeants in the Marine Corps wear shirts with the phrase “Follow Me” on the back as they lead their fire teams in training. It is the leader, instructor, or teacher that clears the path, becoming the verbal and non-verbal examples of what disciples look to. Jesus is the first-born of all creation being called “Rabbi” that paved the way for all disciples to follow as Paul states in Roman 8:29 “to be conformed to the image of his Son” as we walk in the path of Jesus.
No matter what the field is, whether it is martial arts, mathematics, or military training, instructors progressively train in a manner of “crawl, walk, run” to ensure the trainee is adequately equipped with the fundamentals to reach the ultimate goal. In the earliest stages of discipleship, the follower may have a myriad of questions. Still, complete understanding of the process and orders given by the instructor is not a prerequisite of obedience. To follow means the follower has faith and trust in the one they are following, and the answers to their questions will eventually be answered. Often, obedience leads to understanding as the process unfolds as the disciple gains the maturity to apply the knowledge they have received.
Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and those who accepted the invitation obeyed. Their instant obedience was an expression of faith; ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Faith is always illustrated by the action of the individual as James describes, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my work” (Ja. 2:8). To follow Jesus is to faithfully obey his word and example in our speech and actions that demonstrates our faith to the world as his disciple.